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Niagara University offers mental health first aid training during COVID-19

The University says that the training, along with several others and therapy initiatives, are increasingly important, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. — Niagara University announced Thursday that 15 individuals have become trained as mental health first aid instructors, which is part of an effort to increase "the mental health literacy of the Niagara County region"

The university says it's one of only a handful of higher education institutions to offer the three-day training. The training was part of a series of mental health workshops the university offered to its community and the public.

“I feel that, as we get more and more members of our community trained in recognizing mental health problems and learning how to support someone on their path to getting help, it will also help erode the stigma of mental illness and increase peoples’ willingness to seek help,” said Dr. Timothy Osberg, professor of psychology at Niagara University.

Other trainings included suicide prevention training known as Gatekeeper - Question Persuade Respond (QPR), mental health first aid, Compeer Niagara volunteering webinars, building resilience, managing mental health during COVID-19 and early childhood mental heath overviews. 

Niagara says over 300 people participated in the workshops and trainings. Participants didn't just include students and staff, but also individuals from Empower, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, and Catholic Health.

The programming was supported by a grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation.

Additionally, the university has used the grant to establish a satellite clinic where students can use telehealth counseling through the university. 

The university also used the grant to launch TAO - Therapy Assistance Online Connect - a free self-help tool anyone in the Niagara University community can use on their phone or computer.

“At Niagara, we are committed to the physical, spiritual, and mental health of the whole person. We recognize that for our students, the university living-learning experience is rewarding, enriching, and engaging,” said Rev. James Maher, C.M., Niagara University president. 

“We also know that this time of transition may be stressful as students navigate new and unknown roles and expectations, and that this academic year has been further complicated by the restrictions and uncertainty imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic," Maher added.